3 Ways to Make Your Living Room More Functional

Whether you have a large open floor plan or a small cozy space, having a living room that you can function in is so important. What can you do to better utilize your space?

The living room is the main space in your home where people gather. It’s a high traffic room and it has a lot of jobs. Creating a space that meets the needs of your family, but is also beautiful and desirable to be in, is no easy task. You might find yourself wondering where to even start, but with a few simple tricks, you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Here are three significant ways you can create more functional space in your living room right now:

Aim to Simplify

These days, with life spinning so fast in so many different directions, it’s easy for our home to become a drop zone for so many things. We accumulate sports equipment, hobby related accessories, kids toys, pet supplies, and the list goes on. Somehow, in the midst of all these bits and pieces, the parts we really love about our home can get lost. The number one thing you can do to create a more functional living room is to start by de-cluttering. Start by grabbing four boxes labeled:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Trash

Go through your living room and do your best to purge those excess items. Think creatively and remember that by letting some things go, you are making way to really highlight the things in your home that really do matter to you. Consider pairing down on things you have in excess, for instance, limit your throw pillows, don’t pack your bookshelves to the max, and try not to overwhelm your mantle with knickknacks. Colleen Madsen of 365 Less Things suggests, “There is no need to make things difficult by trying to organize the hardest things first. Most likely, it will simply deter you from the task altogether. Instead, start with the easy stuff and then as you strengthen your will to reduce, the harder decisions will become easier.” De-cluttering might seem like a daunting task, but it is worth it in the long run. Having less clutter is actually healthier for you and it helps promote a more peaceful environment. Who doesn’t want a living room that ushers in peace?

Once you have simplified the extra stuff around your home, you can then really focus on the statement pieces that you want to showcase. Turn your attention to pieces that open up and add light to your living room. Mirrors offer a great way to add dimension to an otherwise boring space. Laura Gaskill suggests, “Placing a full-length mirror between two windows tricks the eye into thinking there is another window there and helps maximize natural light. Casually propping a full-length mirror against the wall brings a relaxed mood to the room.” Focus your energy on finding pieces that inspire you, draw out simplicity, and take up minimal space.

Designate Space Wisely

Creating functionality in your living room is so much more than arranging furniture, it’s about developing an environment that works and flows with your family’s lifestyle. Instead of just placing your furniture where it fits or the best angle toward the TV, really consider the design and formation of your living room. Try to designate areas with certain jobs in mind. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • a distinct sitting area
  • a reading nook
  • a play area
  • a home office corner
  • an entertainment space

Elaine Song from styleathome.com advises, “Divide your living space by designating areas for certain activities. It will allow for better organization of furniture and necessities. Whether it’s a games area with a table and proper storage for board games and toys or a TV area with seating and media storage for music and movies, your space will feel less cluttered.” If you find yourself debating over what to do with your sofa, consider what Designer Laura Casey has to say, “People often ask me my opinion on using sectional sofas. Under the right conditions, they can be functional and look great. I think their best use is in rooms with high ceilings or lots of windows and upholstered in a lighter color. Getting room and upholstery proportions correct can be a challenge. If you’ve got a smaller sized room with low ceilings you are better off choosing a mix of a sofa and chairs to help break up the space.” The living room is the place that family gathers, with specifically designated areas, giving everyone a corner of their own.

Use Furniture Creatively

One of the main reasons to use furniture creatively, is that it is a great way to incorporate sentimental family pieces into your everyday life. Jan Porter of Isle Designs, brings over 35 years of Design experience to the table, she shared some helpful advice about how she uses pieces creatively within her own home, “I tend to use pieces that have a multi functional purpose. One of my family heirlooms, an antique cedar chest from the 1800’s not only doubles as storage, but it is used as my coffee table as well.” Another wonderful reason to use furniture creatively is that it can offer double-duty. Some benches have wonderful storage capabilities and they also make a great window seat.

Many new sectional sofas come with ample storage inside, and the chaise lounge portion can double as a daybed. If your living room is on the smaller side, consider using a bookshelf as an entertainment storage center/room divider. You can place TV remotes and controllers in lined baskets, store games in decorative boxes, and reserve one shelf for your favorite go to books. By using double-duty furniture, you not only create more space, but you develop a room that everyone in your family feels some sense of ownership to.

Trees for Springtime Planting

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” — Chinese proverb

Spring is the ideal time to introduce new trees to your home environment. The gentle warmth of sunny spring days encourages the roots to spread out and grow while spring rains bring needed moisture. By planting in spring, new trees have several months to establish strong roots before the mercury plummets and winter returns.

Trees provide spring flowers, cooling shade in summer, a brilliant splash of bold color in autumn and visual interest in winter. Trees can be used to hide an unsightly view, planted as a windbreak to reduce cold winds and lower heating bills, to define property boundaries, provide essential shelter and food for wildlife, control erosion in unstable soil, and help reduce carbon in the earth’s atmosphere.

Adding elegant, eye-catching trees to the home landscape is one of the fastest ways to add beauty and value to your property. The Arbor Day Foundation advises, “In one study, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%.”

In the mid-west, homeowners especially appreciate the shade on hot summer days. The United States Department of Agriculture advises, “The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” The United States Forest Service notes, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.”

Planting trees is an investment in your property that should not be taken lightly. Selecting the right trees that will flourish in your location can greatly affect the valuation of the property. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers state, “A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.”

When considering planting trees to beautify your home, the advice and services of a knowledge landscape contractor is crucial. Your landscape contractor will recommend the best trees for your site and situation; taking into consideration the height and width of the tree at maturity, the architectural style of the home and the location of underground utilities, septic or sewer systems, irrigation or sprinkler systems and water lines that serve pools, fountains or other water features.

Tree planting should be part of a long-term landscape plan for your property that factors in terrain, soil conditions, drainage and available light. Other considerations, when selecting the right trees for your home landscape, are longevity, ease of maintenance, resistance to disease and tolerance of extremes in climatic conditions.

When adding trees to their home landscape, most homeowners prefer an “instant” landscaped-look that can only be accomplished by planting large-landscape-size trees. Although the homeowner can plant small potted trees themselves, it will be years before the tree has an impact on the visual appearance of the landscape.

By engaging the services of a professional landscape contractor with experience and the right equipment, trees up to 8 inches in diameter can be planted; saving labor, planting time and years and years of maintenance of a juvenile tree. Planting a developed, larger tree also eliminates the risk of mower or edger damage that often occurs on smaller, younger trees.

Talk to your landscape designer or contractor. There are hundreds of different species of trees that do well in United States Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. Your choice of ornamental trees is only limited by your imagination. Choose trees based on personal preference, adaptability to your local growing conditions and the limitations of your budget. Popular choices include:

Oak

The official United States national tree, the mighty oak is one of the most planted trees in mid-west landscapes, both urban and rural. Oaks are prized for their sturdy growth, majestic size, and grand presence. A broad-crowned classic, the Northern Red Oak tree (Quercus rubra), is a winner in any spacious yard or open landscape. A deciduous tree that grows to a stately height of 50 feet high, the Northern Red Oak develops a full, broad canopy up to 60 feet wide at maturity. On sunny days, the graceful canopy is a beautiful spot under which to dine or relax.

Exhibiting fresh glossy green color in springtime, cooling shade during the hottest days of summer, brilliant fire red fall foliage and winter interest, the Northern Red Oak is strong and hardy to withstand the cold and winds of winter. Native to the mid-west, the Northern Red Oak is tolerant of pollution and withstands the rigors of the city well. Fast growing and hardy in United States Planting Zones 4 through 7, the Northern Red Oak tree prefers nutrient rich, well-drained, acidic soil.

Maple

If you are looking to add a brilliant splash of color to your fall landscape, look no further than the mighty maple tree.

Everyone’s favorite, the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharinum) is a dependable choice for adding breathtaking fall color. Grown throughout the mid-west, the Sugar Maple turns vivid shades of red and orange in autumn. Fast growing, Sugar Maples develop attractive grey bark as they mature. The drought tolerant and disease resistant Sugar Maple reaches a height of 45-55 feet at maturity and develops a round canopy 30 to 50 feet wide.

Trident maple (Acer buergerapum), Hedge maple (Acer campastre), Paperback maple (Acer griseum), Japanese maple (Acer plamatun), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), and Norway maple (Acer platanpides) all offer vibrant fall color, grow from 30 to 50 feet tall and adapt to most soil conditions.

Considered one of the best of the hybrid maples, the Freeman maple tree (Acer x freeman) is best known for its magnificent display of brilliant red-orange fall foliage. At maturity, the Freeman Maple tree grows 75 to 80 feet tall and from 40 to 50 feet wide and will fare well when planted in an open area with plenty of sun and moist, well-drained, pH-neutral soil.

Another fast-growing hybrid maple, “Autumn Blaze” matures to a height of 50 to 65 feet and forms a dense oval crown 40 to 50 wide.

Because of specific cultural requirements, maple trees are only dug by nurseries in the spring and may only be planted in the spring.

Zelkova

The “Green Vase” zelkova tree (Zelkova serrate “Green Vase”) is prized for strong upright arching branches that give the tree a pleasing symmetrical shape. Adding height and vertical interest to the landscape, the “Green Vase” tree reaches a height of 60 to 70 feet tall at maturity and presents a cone-shaped canopy that is 40 to 50 feet wide. The ornamental tree prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. Hardy in United States Planting Zones 5 through 8, the Green Vase tree tolerates pollution, drought, and strong winds, making it an excellent tree for street-side planting in urban areas. Disease resistant and fast growing, the Green Vase tolerates most types of soil.

 

Important Considerations for Condo Buyers in Their 20’s and 30’s

Looking to purchase a condo? You will want to consider the pros and cons before signing on the dotted line.

Condos are very popular home choices for first-time homebuyers, and for good reason! Purchasing a condo can give you all the convenience of living in an apartment while also receiving all of the benefits of being a property owner.

Many young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s choose to purchase a condo instead of a home because they simply don’t want to deal with maintaining the exterior of a larger, stand-alone home. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and shoveling snow are some of the many responsibilities that come along with home ownership. Choosing a condo instead of a house eliminates these worries and guarantees that the exterior of the property investment you have made will be well cared for no matter what.

If you are considering a condo for your first (or second or eighth) home, let’s go over some of the most important considerations you should pay attention to before purchasing a condo.

Is your family growing?

One of the most common reasons people sell their first property is because they need more space. Starter homes can quickly lose their appeal and livability once a baby enters the picture, and the same is true of the picturesque single-bedroom condo that warmed your heart with its cozy atmosphere and grown up décor.

It’s best to plan ahead if you anticipate your family growing in the near future. Often you can find properties that have several rooms and maybe even a second bathroom, which will be a necessary luxury once you and your partner expand your brood. Larger units typically can command a higher resale price as well, leaving you in great shape to turn a profit if the time does come to seek out a new home down the road.

Do you own pets?

Are you currently a pet owner? Or do you plan on owning a pet in the near future? Many condominium complexes have strict rules regarding pets, and the last thing you want is to be forced into parting with your beloved puppy or cat because the building that you just signed papers for will not let them through the door.

Pat Gregory, a Realtor with Re/Max, explains why it’s so important to read the condominium bylaws.

“Every condominium complex has covenants and bylaws that govern permitted use of the units and surrounding common areas. For instance, some complexes will only allow pets under a certain size and weight.”

If you have always dreamed of rescuing a cute puppy down at the local animal shelter, or if you are on a waiting list for one of the kittens your friend’s cat just had, you may want to reconsider your condo plan. At the very least, be up front with the property manager or realtor that is in charge of the property listing and ask hard questions about what pet scenarios would or would not be allowed.

Another thing to consider if you find a condo for sale that welcomes pets is whether or not the outdoor space available to you and your furry friend will be enough for them to receive ample exercise.

Do you mind paying association fees?

For some, condos are easy and convenient because all of the exterior maintenance is handled by the association. However, this easy lifestyle comes at a price. These are called home owners association fees, or HOA fees.

Fes can be minimal or they can reach upwards of several hundred dollars every month adding up to thousands of dollars every year. These fees are in addition to your mortgage, taxes, insurance, and utilities and they cover the condominium complexes expenses such as trash, lawn maintenance, and daily up keep of the common areas. If you are looking at a unit that has access to a community pool, gym, or recreation area, expect to be on the high end of the fee scale.

June Fletcher of the Wall Street Journal cautions potential homebuyers, saying: “Buyers need to question the association board about dues payments, and have their inspectors examine common elements before committing to a purchase. It’s also important to review the financial documents that every buyer has a right to inspect before closing.”

At the end of the day, many young homebuyers love that all of the condo’s exterior maintenance is taken care of by the association, while others view HOA fees as an unnecessary expense and they don’t mind doing basic home maintenance themselves. Both points of view are valid, just be sure to evaluate your lifestyle to determine what is right for you.

What are your hobbies?

Do you like working on cars? Racing dirt bikes? Gardening? Depending on your areas of interest, the condo life will either be a dream come true or a dream killer. Your neighbors might not react too kindly if you and your friends are parked outside working on your hot rods at all hours of the night, or if your collection of garden gnomes begins working its way into their territory. On the other hand, many condo dwellers love to garden and may even share in a community plot.

Take stock of your interests and determine whether or not the condo you are interested in will allow those hobbies to flourish. If so, you can move ahead in confidence knowing that your friends and neighbors will be encouraging you in your endeavors. If not…well, you might want to keep on searching for a home that will be a perfect fit for you.

Do you value privacy?

A few of the downsides to communal living are shared walls, tight parking spaces, and community yard space. If you yearn for wide-open spaces and the freedom to live in solitude, you may find your neighbors grating on your nerves before long.

Condominium life is best suited for people who love interacting with others and relish the thought of minimal upkeep paired with a great opportunity to build owner equity. These properties offer the ultimate convenience for young professionals that are just getting started in their careers, as well as for tight-knit families on the go that are looking for a fun, relaxed lifestyle.

How to Talk to Your Tenants about Renter’s Insurance  

You have a policy to protect your investment, but your tenants need one to cover their own interests. How do you talk insurance with your tenants?

A landlord’s policy protects your property in the case of physical loss as well as other liabilities, but contrary to what many tenants think, it doesn’t cover their possessions or liability if they cause injury or damages to someone on the property. It’s up to you, as the landlord, to encourage them to purchase a renters insurance policy.

According to a recent survey commissioned by InsuranceQuotes.com, only 34 percent of the nation’s tenants have renter’s insurance. That should concern you, as an investor, because many of those tenants don’t purchase their own coverage, thinking they’re covered under their landlord’s policy. If anything catastrophic ever does happen, they will expect their losses to be covered and learn, too late, they’re out of luck.

Some states allow landlords to require their tenants to purchase renter’s insurance as part of the lease, but even if your state doesn’t, you should discuss insurance with them. You may even consider offering a small discount in their rent if they do.

But, the conversation could feel a little awkward if you don’t understand renter’s insurance or know what to say. Here are some things to keep in mind.

A landlord’s policy covers the landlord

Before you broach the topic of insurance with your tenant, you need to understand your own landlord’s policy and what it covers. A landlord’s policy is similar to homeowner’s insurance in that it covers you against damages resulting from causes such as vandalism, water, fire, smoke damage, vehicles, and explosions. But, a landlord’s policy offers additional protection that you want as an investor.

First, a landlord’s policy offers fair rental income, which protects you if the property becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss. In such an event, you would be covered for the rental income you would have received from your tenants for as long as it takes to replace or repair your property, up to 12 months.

It also offers you greater liability protection against injury claims or property damage. Depending on the policy, this protection could include legal fees, damages, and legal counsel.

A landlord’s policy does not cover the tenant, though. If his property is damaged or destroyed as a result of a covered loss, such as a fire, he’s out of luck—the landlord’s policy does not cover his belongings. Likewise, if the tenant’s dog bites the repairman, your policy would not provide him liability coverage.

A renter’s policy covers the renter

Where your policy leaves off, renter’s insurance picks up. Similar to a landlord’s policy and homeowner’s policy, if his property is damaged by a covered event, he can be reimbursed for its loss. Most renter’s policies offer only a limited dollar amount for jewelry, furs, sports or musical equipment, and collectibles, according to the Insurance Information Institute, so if the tenant owes these items, he will want to purchase a separate policy called a “floater” to cover them.

Renter’s insurance also provides liability protection should he ever be sued for bodily injury or property damage done by you, your family members, and your pet. Most renter’s insurance policies come with at least $100,000 of liability coverage and pay for both the cost of defending you in court and any damages awarded, according to the Institute.

A renter’s insurance policy also pays an additional living expenses benefit if your rental property is destroyed by a covered disaster and he needs to live somewhere else while it is repaired. Under these circumstances, the insurance carrier will reimburse his hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, and other expenses incurred during the rebuild or repair. The total payout for this benefit, though, may be financially capped or have a time limit.

Why your tenant isn’t insured

So, if tenants are at risk without renter’s insurance, why don’t they purchase it? Many simply don’t know it exists. They are well aware of homeowner’s insurance, but don’t realize there’s a policy that covers renters. Or, as mentioned above, they think they are covered under your policy.

Others may be aware of renters insurance but think it’s too expensive. That’s actually not the case. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average renter’s insurance policy costs $185 per year, or less than $15.50 per month. Still others think it’s a waste of money since the chances are slim anything “bad” will ever happen to them, or they put off purchasing it, assuming that it can wait until later.

How to have “the talk

The best time to broach the subject of insurance with your tenant is when the two of you sit down to review the terms of the lease. Some states allow you to require your tenant to carry a renters’ insurance policy, but even if your state doesn’t, you should still take the time to discuss with the tenant how he does not have protection under your policy.

Begin by explaining what your landlord’s policy covers and how a renter’s policy benefits him. You may also want to explain that most policies offer only a limited dollar amount for high-end items such as collectibles. Encourage him to consider a “floater” if he needs additional coverage.

You’ll also want to mention that even a renter’s policy doesn’t protect him in every circumstance. Some events, such as floods, are not covered. If you live in an area that has special insurance needs such as floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes, you may want to encourage him to purchase this additional coverage as well.

Come prepared with an estimate of what it might cost to buy renter’s insurance, even if you have only a ballpark figure. Point out to the tenant that insurance companies often offer discounts on renter’s insurance if you have another policy with them for your car or business. And, some companies also have discounts if the property has a security system, has deadbolt locks, and uses smoke detectors, or if he has good credit and is more than 55 years old.

Why does it really matter?

So, why should you care if your tenant has renter’s insurance? Not only does it protect the tenant in case his property is damaged or destroyed, but it provides you with an additional layer of protection. If the tenant’s flat screen TV is stolen, he will be able to file a claim with his renter’s policy carrier. Or, if he damages someone’s property, his policy will be targeted, not yours.

Plus, it gives you some reassurances that if the tenant’s property is stolen, he won’t have to decide between paying you rent and replacing all of his electronics. His renter’s policy will cover his losses.

 

 

How Aging Americans Will Change the Market

As America as a nation ages, our housings needs will change. How will it impact the housing market?

By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates one in five Americans will have reached their golden years. That figure could have a tremendous impact on the real estate market. Already, builders in some communities are rethinking planned communities. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Every day, roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers celebrate their 65th birthday. Many will retire the following year when they qualify for full benefits, or soon after, and although they may continue to lead an active life, they will likely downsize their home, and eventually, most will need some sort of assisted living. This will have a profound effect on the housing market and our society as a whole.

In a sense, the Baby Boomer generation has always been a demographic wave sweeping through our population and necessitating change. When they were children, our nation needed more schools to accommodate their educational needs. Now, we will need to accommodate their changing housing needs, possibly with more rentals and eventually with assisted living centers and nursing homes.

At some point, demand for senior housing will decrease as less populous generations replace Baby Boomers, but that won’t be anytime soon. According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, in 2050, those 65 and older will roughly 84 million, nearly double what it is today.

From owners to renters  

A recent study released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, “Rental Housing Demand,” indicates that many homeowners become renters later in life in response to a change in income or housing needs. The report found that rental rates increased first with those in their 60s and then more sharply when they reached their 70s.

Why? As people become empty nesters, they begin to start thinking about downsizing. Many ask themselves whether they even want to deal with the upkeep of a house anymore and opt to rent smaller single family residences, condos and apartments, where a landlord takes care of the maintenance issues and repairs.

Renting also gives them the flexibility to travel. If a retiree wants to avoid cold weather, they winter in a temperate climate like Florida for six months and then return north for the remaining six months. Since they’ve signed short-term leases in both locations, they don’t have to worry about a property they don’t own, and they are not committed to returning to the same destination next year. They can winter in Southern California instead.

But, not all seniors will embrace the rental lifestyle. Some will want to hold on to family homes for future generations, even if the house is larger than they need and requires more upkeep. Others will downsize but decide they would rather rent.

Location, location, location

Geography will likely have another impact. Retirees who have had enough of the snow will leave behind colder areas in favor of the Southern half of the country. Not only could this cause a spike in demand for rentals, but it could also increase demand for small single family residences, apartments, and condos.

Expect to see a greater number of people age 65 and up in states such as Florida and Arizona where people traditionally retire, but areas such as southern New Mexico, Texas, and the Gulf Shores could also experience an uptick. Conversely, housing demand in colder climates could decline as people in their golden years decide to sell and move to warmer, more affordable locales.

Seniors may also consider state income taxes when looking for a place to retire. Warmer climate, no-tax states such as Florida, Nevada, and Texas will likely receive an influx of people looking to lower their tax burden on any income they may have. (They will likely have to pay increased sales tax and real estate levies, though, to compensate in these areas, which can be a greater burden for seniors.)

Forbes identified Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah as the best warmer climate states for seniors from a tax perspective. (For a complete list, read more here.) Watch for demand for senior housing to increase in these states.

The accessibility factor

According to another Harvard report conducted jointly with the AARP Foundation, “Housing America’s Older Adults — Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population,” accessibility is one of the major concerns of an aging population. More than 25 of all Americans age 50 or older have some level of difficulty with vision, hearing, memory, mobility, personal care, or handling the demands of independent living. That rate increases sharply to 54 percent of those 75 and older.

Despite those statistics, many properties can’t adequately accommodate the elderly, and only 1 percent of all housing in the United States has all five elements of universal design: no-step entry; single-floor living; extra-wide doorways and halls; accessible electrical controls and switches; and lever-style door and faucet handles. Just 57 percent of homes have more than one of them.

With an aging population facing accessibility issues, universal design is likely to become more of a buzz word. Some communities, such as Tucson, Ariz.; Atlanta; San Antonio; and Birmingham, Ala. have already begun to adopt universal design standards for new housing developments in some circumstances.

Changing neighborhoods

The joint report also implies that an aging population could influence how our future neighborhoods and communities. According to the report, as people age, their neighborhood can increasingly become their world. They will look for areas where they feel safe, ones that allow them to remain active, socially engaged, and independent.

Already, some planned communities have stepped up to meet these needs, offering easy access to public transportation; well-maintained and accessible sidewalks; and nearby amenities, such as parks, churches, grocery stores, and drug stores.

Broader implications

As Baby Boomers age, the housing market faces another shift: subsequent generations don’t necessarily see owning a home as the American dream. Some Gen Xers who lost their homes during the housing market crash are content to remain renters, at least for now, and Millennials, in general, prefer what they consider the freedom of not owning.

Potentially, this means the market could experience dwindling demand for homes in the decades to come. It could also signal more demand for rental properties, condos, and apartments. However, a surge in real estate value, an economic boom or a number of other factors could change these subsequent generations’ minds.

 

 

 

Finish Out Your Basement The Right Way

Has your underground space been turned into a junk collector full of memorabilia, holiday decorations and old sports equipment that you will never use? Do you need more living space for a growing family? Finishing out or rejuvenating an old basement adds valuable living space inside the existing footprint of your home while significantly reducing the amount of time, energy, and money required to otherwise expand your family’s living space.

Before you can move forward with a basement-remodeling project, you need to have a clear idea in mind as to what you are trying to accomplish. Do you intend to remodel only a portion of your basement for an extra bedroom, workout area or home office while leaving the remainder unfinished for workshop space or storage? Are you thinking of installing a basement bar for entertaining friends? Do you want to do a complete basement remodel to create a family media room, an entertainment area, second kitchen or extra bedrooms for when family and friends come to visit?

Think long-term and consider the future use of the basement space you are creating. If you are thinking of creating a space for teenagers to have their friends over and entertain, will the space be adaptable to future use when the kids are off to college?

To ensure the highest return on investment, it is important that the quality of the basement renovation be equal to the rest of the house, mimicking architectural design and types of materials.

Points To Consider

While turning unused basement space into additional living space will make your home roomier, it also presents unique remodeling challenges in regards to moisture control, ventilation, insulation, natural lighting and air quality. Low ceilings, heating and air-conditioning ductwork and a shortage of egress windows may pose building code and permit problems.

Dark, damp and dreary is how most people think of basements. The lack of natural light is the biggest complaint of basement dwellers. When remodeling a basement, do everything you can to capitalize on available natural light to make your underground retreat an enjoyable place to spend time. Extend window wells, especially on the south side of the home, to allow additional light to enter the space. Consider installing fiber optic lighting or solar tubes to direct natural light into the basement.

Replacing old metal window frames with wood or vinyl frames eliminates a major point of heat and cooling loss and adds valuable natural light. Building codes require that a basement must have at least two exits in the case of an emergency. Be aware that installing windows to satisfy code specifications may require major foundation work.

If your basement does not have an exterior exit door, is it feasible to add one? An exterior basement door adds significant value when it comes time to sell. An exterior exit door in the basement is a big safety feature in the event of fire and it makes it easy for the family to go in and out of the basement from outdoors without tracking through the house. An exterior exit is also a bonus if you ever consider renting out the basement or turning into a “mother-in-law suite.”

Check with your homeowner’s insurance agent to determine if your remodeling project is covered under your homeowner’s policy. Some basement additions are not. While a basement remodeling can provide additional bedrooms and more living space, basement bedrooms may not be counted when it comes to appraising your home for sale or loan purposes.

Determine if your present heating and air conditioning system is adequate to heat and cool the basement. Adding under-the-floor heating can make a chilly bedroom floor warm and cozy.

If you are building a media room or entertainment center in the basement, consider adding soundproofing or extra insulation to the ceiling to dampen noise that would otherwise bother people in other parts of the house.

Test For Radon

For safety’s sake, have your basement tested for radon prior to starting any remodeling activities. In some areas of the United States, radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas is a serious concern and a proven cancer risk. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency warns that radon gas is the second-leading cause of cancer after smoking.

Because basements are located below grade, their orientation may result in a build-up of trapped radon gasses. Basements may also hold other noxious contaminants including pesticides, mold, creosote, lead or asbestos that will require removal by a professional abatement company.

If radon is detected, your basement finishing contractor can employ a diverse array of radon mitigation systems such as self-priming drains or gas traps, sub-slab ventilation or sealing of walls and foundation.
Plan to install radon, carbon dioxide, and smoke alarms in all areas of the basement.

Choosing A Basement Remodeling Contractor

Now that you have decided to rejuvenate the underused space in your basement, it’s important to do the research necessary to locate a reliable basement remodeling contractor that will “get the job done right, on time and within budget”. The Better Business Bureau warns consumers that home improvement contractors have the highest amount of customer complaints. Ask your homeowner’s insurance agent for a referral and verify references. Check on contractor’s reputations on the Internet and with the Better Business Bureau.
Be sure to select a contractor with an established reputation and a portfolio of satisfied clients. Statistics from the United States Small Business Administration reflect that the majority of home remodeling contractors (96 percent) go out of business within five years of start-up. Down the road, if you need your contractor for modifications, additions or to honor warranty work, you and your billfold will be happy you chose one that is still in business.

Choose a reliable company that specializes in complete basement finishing rather that having to cope with the hassles and headaches of hiring an assortment of general contractors. Selecting a basement renovation contractor that can do the entire job including waterproofing, installation of energy-efficient dehumidifiers, lighting, heating, cooling, windows, walls, floors and ceilings as well as any plumbing or electrical modifications, will save both time and money. A “one-stop” contractor will pull all required city or county permits and handle any required inspections.

Dealing With Basement Moisture

Is your basement subject to flooding? Does it feel damp or humid? Moisture in the basement is a common problem. The American Society of Home Inspectors, headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois, estimates that in the United States 60 percent of homes have wet basements, and 38 percent run the risk of basement mold.

One of the most important steps prior to commencing any basement remodeling project is to determine that there are no moisture, mold or mildew issues that could cause future problems. Your basement finishing contractor will inspect the home to make sure the ground is sloped away from the foundation and that guttering and downspouts are in good repair. Clogged gutters or poor soil drainage can cause moisture to collect that could seep into the basement. An interior inspection will reveal the presence of dampness or mold.

If moisture is a problem, the problem must be addressed before going forward with the project. The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Administration) advises, “Too much moisture in a home can lead to mold, mildew, and other biological growths. This in turn can lead to a variety of health effects ranging from allergic reactions and asthma attacks to more serious illnesses. In addition to health problems, severe moisture problems can lead to rot, structural damage or premature paint failure.” Moisture in the basement also attracts carpenter ants and termites to take up residence.

Dependent on the extent of the problem, your contractor will remedy the moisture problem by plugging holes and leaks, installing a dehumidifier or coating the exterior walls with a moisture barrier. In extreme cases, an in-floor sump pump, perimeter drains or in-floor guttering may be required. Make sure that you choose a basement waterproofing company that is a member of the National Association of Waterproofing and Structural Repair Contractor and offers a warranty that your basement will remain dry for the life of the structure.

Use only moisture resistant building materials in your basement remodeling project and avoid wallpaper or carpet that traps and harbor moisture.

Use Eco-Friendly Building Materials

Create an environmentally friendly underground space by using green building materials. Request that your contractor only use sustainable or recycled materials and low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) caulks, sealants, adhesives and paint. VOC-containing paints and finishes can give off cancer-causing fumes for months after application.

Stress that your contractor uses formaldehyde-free products and avoid the traditional building materials such as particleboard or fiberglass insulation that can emit gasses into the indoor environment. Avoid the installation of any pressboard or particleboard that will absorb moisture over time. Install only solid wood cabinets and counters. Ask your contractor to install low-maintenance, high-quality materials that offer a warranty that they are moisture-proof and will withstand a future flood or other water damage. Properly planned, improving your unfinished basement space adds welcome living space and significant long-term value to the home.

 

Can Energy Efficient Windows Really Save You Money?

You’ve probably heard a lot about how energy efficient windows can save you loads on your electric bill, but is this really a sound improvement for your home? Let’s connect with the experts and found out once and for all just how worthwhile these fixtures can be for homeowners like yourself.

There’s nothing worse than watching your heating and cooling costs shoot through the roof (figuratively, of course) as the seasons change and your home becomes either too hot or cold. However, what if you could drop this monthly financial burden and reinvestment in into your home? To find out if energy efficient windows can do all of this – and more – let’s tap into some of the leading home improvement minds and tackle this discussion from a wide variety of angles.

Adding energy efficient windows to your home isn’t just a casual decision to make on the weekend when you’re bored or in the mood for a little fun with home decorating. In fact, this switch can stand as one of the biggest decisions regarding your house for a variety of reasons.

First up is the fact that you’re making a major change to the style and appearance of your house. Do these windows fit the look of your home? If not, how much work will go into remodeling the exterior or interior of your home to reflect this new look? What about what happens to the resale value if you ever decide that it’s time to pack up and leave?

Aside from the aesthetic questions, there are also the various financial factors that can affect your next move regarding the windows around your house. Unlike a new set of drapes or shutters for the exterior of your home, energy efficient windows often stand as an investment that requires quite a bit of cash up front before you start seeing the savings reflected on your bill.

What Exactly Is an Energy Efficient Window?

Of course, bombarding you with a mountain of questions right up front probably isn’t the best way to start the discussion, so let’s take a step back and make sure you have a clear understanding of just exactly what an energy efficient window has to offer you and your home. As the experts at the United States Department of Energy point out, the big deal surrounding the energy efficient window is its ability to store heated and cool air within your home in a more effective and efficient manner.

Some homes, especially older ones, simply can’t store conditioned air properly due to poor insulation, leaky seals, and a variety of other common household ailments. However, even with all of these problems solved, those without energy efficient windows still face one simple reality – older windows, or those that that don’t employ the right materials and design, can never be “fixed” in terms of maintaining and protecting the climate within your home.

How Does This Fixture Work?

So now that you know what energy efficient windows aim to do, it’s time to turn the discussion toward just how the heck these things work. If you’re a big time fan of thermal dynamics and mathematics, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Paul Fisette offers up an exceedingly complex and thorough look into the physical properties that cause energy efficient windows to help cut down your electric bill and maintain hot or cold temperatures within your home.

For the rest of the readers out there that don’t currently lay claim to a doctoral degree in the various science fields, here’s the annotated and simplified version of the process. Essentially, rising heating and cooling prices related to windows come from four different issues – conduction, convection, radiation, and air leakage.

Conduction describes the movement of heat through materials, in this case a poorly insulated window and your backyard, while convection highlights the fact that circulating air within your room will naturally try to heat or cool the surface of the glass and mirror outside temperatures. Radiation refers to the UV rays emitted from the sun that enter through the glass of the window and air leakage covers the fact some windows simply don’t just don’t keep hold air in quite like they used to.

Energy efficient windows tackle this problem by blocking the flow of energy and air from within your home to the outside world. However, during the winter months you don’t want your home to be an igloo, so the material that comprises these fixtures allows some of the solar energy generated by the sun back into the home, thus helping with your heating costs.

Can You Really Save Money with Energy Efficient Windows?

Now that you’re an expert on energy efficient windows, it’s time to answer the burning question – can you really save money by upgrading your current windows to more efficient and energy friendly models? As Karin Beuerlien of House Logic – a blog maintained by the National Association of Realtors – explains, the answer to this question can be both yes and no.

Energy efficient windows can save your home up to $465 a year, which is nothing to scoff at. However, the average investment for a complete window conversion runs right around $11,198, so switching out your old windows isn’t always the right answer.

Think of it this way; if you plan on staying in your home for the next 10 to 20 years, you can save quite a bit on your electric bill and increase the value of your home via energy efficient windows. For those on the other side of the fence who might be looking to move in the near future, this investment will definitely boost your house’s worth on the market, but probably not by enough to offset the substantial upfront costs.

Choosing the Right Window

For those of you who fall into the first category, there’s one final thing to discuss – which type of window fits your home and your needs moving forward. Again, House Logic’s Karin Beuerlien helps shed some light on this subject with a quick overview of your options.

Aside from the obvious decorative and framing options, you’ll need decide between “Low-E,” glazed, and gas-filled panels. Low-E windows help reflect heat via a thin metallic coating and generally cost up to 10 percent more than the average energy efficient window. Glazed windows come in multiple layers or sheets of glass, but without the low emissivity coating, while gas filled offerings rely on sandwiching argon or krypton gas between the various panel layers. Unfortunately, gas-filled options aren’t readily available in high altitude areas due to the substantial difference in air pressure.

Naturally, this is a lot of info to digest in one sitting. From how these fixtures work, to just how much money you can really save, there’s no doubt that you’ve learned a lot during your time reading this article. However, thanks to this willingness to dig a little deeper, you can rest easy knowing that whatever decision you come to regarding the installation of energy efficient windows in your home, you made your choice with all of the facts guiding you along the way.

 

 

6 Tips for Removing Kitchen Clutter While Selling Your First Home

Preparing your home for a sale can be an overwhelming process. You might not be sure where to even start, that’s why de-cluttering the kitchen is a great place to begin.

So much of life takes place around the kitchen. It’s where people come together to cook, share about their day, and make memories. A well-staged kitchen will not only help you attract potential buyers, but it will showcase one of the most frequently used spaces in your home.

Carla Hill of Realty Times suggests, “ Kitchens are integral to entertaining and in today’s age of open floor plans, they’re a focal piece of many family rooms. It’s because of this that kitchens play such an important role in the buying and selling process.”  Carla added, “Sometimes a kitchen update can mean doing just a few minor changes. Change the paint color to a warm neutral tone. Get rid of any clutter. Update your appliances, paint your cabinets, change the pulls, or get a high-end looking counter for a fraction of the cost (faux-granite or lower end granite). You might even save a bundle by doing much of the work yourself. The bottom line is a kitchen can sell a home.”

The following 6 tips will help you prepare your home for a quick and successful sale:

Clean Countertops

Walking into a home with bare countertops provides an instantly well-kept first impression. The minimalist counter also highlights extra space in the kitchen that could otherwise be lost under too much clutter. Cambria Bold, the design and lifestyle editor from The Kitchn says it best, “Messy countertops—heck, even countertops that have pretty things, but just too many of them—can make a kitchen feel untidy and claustrophobic, whereas mostly clear countertops are invigorating and inspiring. They also invite you to cook, instead of feeling like your kitchen is unready for you.”

Make-Over the Refrigerator

Quirky magnets, colorful art, and postcards might remind you of special memories, but when it comes to selling your house, less is best. Avoid turning the front of your refrigerator into a gallery wall. This not only takes away from the functionality of the kitchen, but it can be extremely distracting to potential buyers who are trying to envision their life in your home. After you’ve successfully cleared the front, make sure you give the inside a thorough cleaning. Go through your fridge and toss expired, leaking, or odor causing foods. Try to keep your shelves clear and organized, in order to display the storage capabilities of your main kitchen appliance.

Julie Stevens, a real estate sales representative with Bond New York  recommends leaving some items in original containers in order to emphasize close proximity to desirable supermarkets. Ms. Stevens shares, “If a potential buyer is looking through your home and sees a label from one of those stores,” she said, it might prompt them to ask if the store is nearby. And “That could be a huge selling point.”

Keep it Kitchen

For most families, the kitchen is typically one the busiest gathering places of the home, which is why organization is key. It’s easy for a kitchen countertop to become the dump zone for miscellaneous household items, but if it isn’t kitchen related, it must go. Keep a bin on the end of your counter as a catchall for the random things that end up cluttering your space. Then at the end of each day, go through the bin and re-home all the wayward items. This will cut down on the time you have to spend tidying up before each showing. Rather than spend precious time corralling all the bits and pieces, the catchall also makes it easier to store out of sight in a hurry for those last minute showings.

Stage the Pantry

Your pantry might usually look more on the haphazard side of things, but when preparing your home for sale, great staging can cinch the deal. Use your pantry to play up the functionality and storage capacity of your kitchen. Laura Gaskill of Houzz shares, “Pare back the contents of your pantry until you have some open space on each shelf. Organize what’s left into a set of matching food storage containers or open baskets. This may mean removing a bunch of food—just remember that a staged kitchen is not necessarily a practical kitchen! As with items from your cupboards, keep extra pantry goods in a box out of sight during showings if you must.”

Eliminate Odors

No one wants to cook up something in a kitchen that already smells questionable. Avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink and purge the refrigerator of old food on a regular basis. Kathleen Squires of Real Simple advises, “ Place a box of baking soda in the freezer and another in the refrigerator to absorb and neutralize smells; replace them every three months. Alternatives: a mound of charcoal; coffee beans in a bowl; or a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract and kept in the refrigerator until dry.” You can also keep nasty odors at bay, by using odor blocking garbage can liners, and play up that ‘freshly baked’ smell by using a candle warmer in a welcoming kitchen scent.

Reduce Excess

Potential Buyers want to explore the space in your kitchen, as they imagine what their life might look like within those walls. Go through your cupboards, drawers, and pantry with the objective to only leave items that are frequently used and essential. Professional Organizer Debbie Lillard suggests, “The kitchen is a very practical place, and most people I meet have more stuff than storage. So only keep what you use on a regular basis. If there is something you use only a few times a year (ice bucket, punch bowl, warming tray, etc.) those items can be stored away in a basement or closet.” Streamlining will not only cut down on clutter before showings, it will enhance the important features, so that your kitchen can truly shine.

How to Makeover Your Investment Property Kitchen for $500

There is nothing like looking at a design magazine or reading an inspiring article to get you excited about renovating your kitchen, but on a tight budget, your options might feel limited. With so many resources available and enough elbow grease, you would be surprised how easily you can transform your kitchen.

Here are some simple ways to update your investment property kitchen without breaking the bank:

Paint

It goes without saying that paint can truly transform a room. Thankfully it is also a very cost-effective way to update an otherwise ugly space. The avocado green walls may have suited your grandma, but it’s contributing nothing but retro vibes to your kitchen right now. Aim to choose warm neutral tones as these colors give a welcoming impression, but also are more appealing to potential buyers.

Deep Clean

Nothing sends people running faster than a filthy kitchen. This might seem like an obvious step, but a sparkly clean space is one of the most inexpensive ways you can maintain the value of your investment property. Once your kitchen has gone through a deep clean, it will peel back layers of grime that accumulates through the years revealing some things you may have never noticed before. If the grout was once stained but cleaned up nicely, you might be able to skip replacing it. A clean start will help you determine the areas that truly need updating and other areas that you can save.

Update Accessories

One extremely minimal way to update your kitchen is simply to change out a few prominent kitchen accessories. This includes a new:

  • spoon rest
  • hand towels
  • fruit bowl
  • wine rack
  • colorful floor mat
  • decorative shelving
  • pretty utensil container

Another way to freshen up the kitchen on a dime is to display fresh fruit like lemons or oranges in a large apothecary jars or place a vase full of fresh flowers on your kitchen counter. Sometimes a pop of color can add so much warmth. Lisa Canning, a Toronto-based interior stylist adds, “ Swapping kitchen accessories in and out, such as dishtowels and counter-worthy accessories, is another simple and effective way to change the color and feel of a kitchen with minimal cost.”

Get Creative

 Anyone on a shoestring budget knows you have to think outside of the box when it comes to decorating. A wonderful way to save while updating, is to re-purpose old items. Laura Gaskill of Houzz suggests, “ Work in rustic elements. Farmhouse accents instantly add warmth and character to a bland kitchen. Replace the kitchen or pantry door with a sliding barn door, hang copper pots from a ceiling rack or bring in a timeworn antique wooden stool.” Try visiting your local thrift store to see if you can find some statement pieces with rustic appeal. Glass mason jars also add a creative solution to storing grains, cereal, and spices, while still looking pretty on display.

Add a Chalkboard

 Chalkboard walls bring a fresh, functional addition to your kitchen. Since, the kitchen is the hub of the home, having a feature that is so easy to add and remove is a great budget-friendly investment. Chalkboards are great for displaying your menu, sharing note-worthy quotes, and entertaining children. There are several approaches you could take:

With enough creativity, the possibilities are endless and easy to paint over if you grow tired of it.

Revamp the Hardware

Changing the drawer pulls on your kitchen cabinets can give them an instantly modern new look. While focusing on cost effective ways to update the kitchen, you should consider spray painting the old pulls. Beautyandbedlam.com shares some real-life design advice, “Why, oh why, did it take me so long to spray paint my kitchen cabinet knobs (or “pulls” for the decorators out there)? It took all of thirty minutes and makes such an amazing difference. Seriously, if you have those infamous 80’s and 90’s ‘in your face, gold brass knobs’ take a minute and update them. You’ll add a fresh, perfect punch to your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom…wherever you have outdated hardware (and trust me, my whole house is full of it).

Install a Back-splash

A lovely back-splash can give your kitchen a quick updated look. Don’t think just because you have a small budget to work with that your options are completely limited. Here are some out-of-the-box ideas for finding a fresh back-splash:

  • peg board
  • vintage postcards or maps
  • salvaged wood
  • home-made mosaic

Add a Kitchen Island

You might not be able to go out and add the kitchen island of your dreams, but there are plenty of alternative use items that function as beautiful islands. Consider converting an old table, vanity, or desk into a statement piece for your kitchen. Check out your local thrift-store and see what funky pieces you can find. Add a fresh coat of paint, install some new hardware and your once bare kitchen will dazzle. You can add cup hooks or shelving to one end for extra storage and a few barstools around the edge to provide additional seating. Kitchen Designer Nadia Hursky shares,“Have a large open-plan space with a kitchen island if possible. Buyers often want to multitask in the kitchen. They want to cook, and have their kids to their homework and socialize in it.”

Factor in the Splurge

Chances are, there is one thing about your outdated kitchen that significantly bothers you the most. This is an area worth spending on, however there are ways to cut corners and get the most bang for your buck. Narrow down the major problem areas of your kitchen and work your budget backwards, taking into account what update will yield the best investment down the road.

5 Tips to Modernize Your Home’s Outdated Bathroom

How many times a day do you find yourself in your home’s bathroom? A home’s bathroom sees some heavy traffic, and any prospective buyer will want to take a look at what it has to offer them. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that you dress up your bathroom just as you would any other room of your house for a buyer visit – and dress it up the right way. An attractive bathroom needs modern style and amenities, and you can install them to really wow your buyers.

A Modern Take on Your Walls and Floors

Tiles are all but a necessity in your bathroom, as there are few other flooring and wall options that handle the heat and humidity of your bathroom better. However, plain tiles in ugly colors will do nothing to impress. Take a page from today’s hot interior design trends, and check out the options available to you. Arty geometric patterns are all the rage in every area of interior style and can have a bold and elegant impact in your bathroom. Classic whites will always have a place in bathroom color-picking, but think outside the box: try metallic chromes or grays, bold blacks, or add a splash of color. Wine reds and nautical blues are both excellent complements to blacks and whites, respectively, and will add visual interest and modern taste to your bathroom, without losing any classic flair.

Shedding Light on Your Situation

Good lighting is an essential part of any room, and you can modernize your bathroom easily by simply updating the light fixtures. Consider the style you’d like your bathroom to show off, and adjust your lighting accordingly. Modern, sleek, and chic bathrooms benefit from strong lighting and sleek, minimalistic fixtures, but be sure that the glare isn’t painful. A more romantic style can call for softer lighting and more elaborate fixtures. The addition of stylish mirrors can not only accentuate your lighting’s effects but can also make the room seem larger.

Cabinets, Storage, and More

Bathroom cabinets don’t have to exist as an afterthought to the rest of the room – indeed, they can be what really pulls together the overall aesthetic. Your bathroom countertop is a perfect canvas to add a splash of pattern and color to an otherwise minimalist room or act as a sleek anchor in a room that pops with geometric design. Storage cabinets can be accented with attractive handles and, above all, no smart buyer can ever say no to loads of storage and counter space. Get creative with adding unique storage to the room, and you’ll be able to expand your bathroom’s utility and space astronomically. The addition of storage to a standing shower area is both shrewd and convenient, and wall storage units can be a solid way to clear off bathroom counter space.

The Modern Way to Clean

Your shower and tub are the centerpieces of your bathroom, and if you’re looking to sell your home, bringing them into the modern age is a great way to up the wow factor for prospective buyers. While the traditional bathtub still has its devoted fans, standing showers are easily the biggest trend in bathroom design today. Removing your tub for a standing shower will greatly expand your bathroom to the eye, and the accessibility and ease of cleaning that a standing shower grants is a huge plus for seniors and those with disabilities. The addition of seating in your standing shower can increase this accessibility for anyone who steps in. Standing showers are an undeniably great canvas for artistic interior design, and can make or break your bathroom’s aesthetic. More rustic rooms can benefit from cobblestone walls, while chic rooms are all about sleek smoothness.

However, the simple bathtub is hard to give up for many buyers, even withstanding showers’ trendy looks and convenience. Modernize your bath by taking it out of the wall, and replacing it with a stylized ceramic standing tub. It’s a great conversation piece for the room and is sure to please any bathtub fan. If your bathroom has the floor space, you may want to consider splitting the difference: a standing shower and standing tub combo, or the real favorite, a standing shower, and Jacuzzi combo.

It’s not just about showers versus tubs when it comes to this part of bathroom design: pay attention to other convenience features that can wow buyers. Removable showerheads and attachments make cleaning easy, and the addition of low lighting to your shower can make for a relaxing, romantic atmosphere – just make sure that the lighting is certified for wet and damp environments. For your hardware selection, stainless steel will always have a place in the bathroom design world. However, if you want cutting-edge style, try chrome or brass work.

Saving the Planet, One Eco-Friendly Toilet at a Time

Eco-friendly bathroom appliances are designed to lower a homeowner’s resource consumption by requiring less water and less electricity to use. Not only are they an earth-friendly way to go about your daily life, they also will save you big on your water and electric utility bills, and come with rebates from government programs: making them a very attractive buy for any homeowner, even those that couldn’t care less about the push for green appliances. Water-friendly showers, sinks, and toilets are available from any local home improvement store, and a switch to LED lights is as simple as changing the bulbs. Installation is simple, and can often be at least partially covered by the aforementioned government rebates. You’ll be able to sell your home on its green merits, as well as its newly economical bent.

A modern, updated bathroom is an excellent addition to any home and can charm buyers the moment they set eyes upon it. Even the simplest bathroom improvement project can provide huge results in a buyer’s eyes and can help your home sell for more, faster. Consider what kind of updates your bathroom needs to get with the times, and go forth to get it up to speed.